Kate's Reviews > The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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's review
Jan 02, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: non-fiction, biographies-and-memoirs, the-100-in-2007
Read in November, 2007

Joan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life support. Only weeks later, Joan's husband, John Dunne, was speaking with her from their living room after visiting their daughter in the hospital, stopped mid-sentence and keeled over dead on the floor of a massive coronary. Four weeks later, Quintana pulled through and revived, but only two months after that, she collapsed from a massive brain hematoma.

Joan Didion documented this year in this book, which I think I heard about on NPR or somewhere, I'm not entirely sure. I know you're all going to hate me for kicking the widow when she's down, but this book was a lot less than I expected. I got through it, but I really thought it would be more about her feelings. Instead, Didion did a lot of research on grief and puts many of her findings in the book. She spends a lot of time analyzing the way things are and trying to figure out if she's behaving in a way that seems "normal" for your "average widow."

I read a review on Amazon.com that calls Joan Didion's writing as "cool" and perhaps lacking emotion, and I felt that way about this book. The most moving passage in the whole book was one in which she states that she realized she was in denial when she cleaned out her husband's closets, but couldn't get rid of his shoes because he would need them when he got back. I thought to myself, "well, now we're getting somewhere", but perhaps she didn't want to share where those painful thoughts led, because there was no indication that she picked the shoes up and flung them at the walls while sobbing in rage. And I wanted her to. I wanted her to be angry at God and everyone for putting her in this terrible situation with her husband's death and her daughter's serious illnesses. But instead, she seemed rather detached. Maybe she didn't want to share those feelings, but if that were so, she shouldn't have written a book purporting to be about that very topic. I found this book to be tremendously disappointing.
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05/16/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Sasha I have to agree with you on this one!

message 2: by Tracy (new)

Tracy She wrote this book very soon after her husband died. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from that grief or it will overwhelm you.

Michelle great review! I would have to agree on many accounts.

message 4: by K (new) - added it

K Good review sums the book up well

message 5: by Gabita (new) - added it

Gabita You should read, Say Her Name.... by Frank Goldman

Michael Draznin This reviewer misses the point about Didion's writing style here and in all of her work. That 'coolness' is signature Didion and is also inherent to the time she really rose as a writer - the 70s. Think less about what you want her to do or react to the events of that year. This book isn't about you, it is emblematic Didion.

Becky Emblematic Didion or not, the reviewer didn't enjoy the writing style. Reviews are about the opinion of the reviewer.

message 8: by Emily (new)

Emily Interesting points. Some people just don't throw shoes, or anything else. It doesn't mean they don't feel. It means they don't externalize.

Carolinemawer Coolness is 'signature Didion'? Even about all the bad bad stuff going on here? That saves me even thinking about reading anything else! All the (not very much!) research was dull too - when there's such a lot of great stuff out there. Thanks, Kate, for your review!

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